By Ron VandenBoom
A 21-gun salute was observed on the west lawn of the Hill County Courthouse Thursday to officially kick off Veterans Day observances in Havre.
The flag-draped sidewalks at the courthouse were a fitting backdrop to the beginning of Veterans Day ceremonies that saw about 100 veterans and respectful citizens pause to honor those who have served in America's military.
After the salute, members of the Havre VFW and American Legion posts raised the courthouse flag to half staff and taps was played to honor those who have fallen in America's wars.
Ceremonies continued at the Havre VFW Club where the Havre Middle School Eighth Grade Band, directed by Dave Carlson, played military marches and the signature song from each branch of the military service.
Havre VFW Post Commander Dave Rice introduced two keynote speakers, Rod Murphy and Jim Clark.
Murphy told the crowd that America is free because of the sacrifice of its veterans. He spoke of the freedom of speech, religion, association and travel as being indicative of the kinds of freedoms enjoyed in this country that were not observed in other countries he has visited.
"That's why I was in the service," he said. "To defend those rights."
He noted that it did not matter whether the soldier was in combat or on the homefront, they are all there doing the job of protecting freedom.
"And for that," he said, "I just want to say thank you."
Clark told the crowd he served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War and said that even though he never engaged in combat he supported the guys who did.
"I don't think anybody went (to Vietnam) to defend the country as much as they did to protect all of the little freedoms," Clark said.
Clark said he viewed Veterans Day as a day more for the guys that didn't come back than for those who did.
"We all went for the same reason," he said. "The only difference is they didn't make it."
"Always remember them," he said.